In response to a damaging fire, the White Swan community began investing in fire resilient initiatives, like chipping days. Credit: Andy Babcock, Yakima County Fire District 5

Collaboration in Action: Building Resilience in White Swan

By: Kirstin Taggart, Washington Resource Conservation and Development Council, with assistance from Gary Peters, Yakama Nation Fire Management and Andy Babcock, Yakima County Fire District 5

Topic: Defensible space / Firewise Wildfire recovery

Type: Success Story / Lessons Learned

“White Swan is a small community on the Yakama Nation in south central Washington State. It is considered a major population center on the Yakama reservation and is categorized as being high fire risk. The immediate landscape is a mix between rangeland and agriculture, with forested creek channels. Geographically, White Swan is located in the middle of a creek bed, posing unique fire protection challenges. When thinking of high fire risk, it’s not your traditional rugged landscape.

On February 12th, 2011, the town of White Swan experienced a fire that devastated the community. A chimney fire fueled by high winds spread into an adjacent field and toward the center of town. Eighteen homes burned and 120 residents were left homeless. White Swan’s recovery and work to build a more fire adapted community is a worthy example of people working together for a more resilient community.

Following the fire in 2011, community members rallied together and started talking about how they could better protect their community from both structure and wildland fires. Community leaders began working with Yakama Nation Fire Management and Yakima County Fire District 5 to strengthen existing partnerships and develop new ones. In a stroke of genius, the fire-centric organizations partnered with the non-fire-centric organizations that were already well-established and respected in the community. This unique partnership provided a springboard for gaining community support and expanding fire prevention efforts.”

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Chipper treatment in action during a clean-up day in the Yakama Nation's White Swan community

Chipper operations during the annual White Swan community clean-up. Credit: Andy Babcock, Yakima County Fire District 5

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Washington State Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network blog. Read the entire post

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